Coyote Gulch's Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Friday, December 12, 2008

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From the Associated Press (Susan Montoya Bryan) via The Denver Post: "The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management have signed agreements with an oil and gas company and a rancher to help protect two rare species in southeastern New Mexico, and federal officials hope the agreements will pave the way for cooperative conservation efforts across the country. Interior Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett calls the agreements "significant," saying that until now federal wildlife managers had no framework to partner on conservation efforts with ranchers who have federal grazing permits or energy development companies that lease public land.

More from the article:

The agreements are aimed at helping the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard, both candidates for possible protection under the Endangered Species Act. Lesser prairie chickens are round, stocky ground-dwelling birds famous for their courtship displays. Conservationists say the species -- which has been a candidate for federal protection for more than a decade -- has declined by 90 percent over the past century and is facing threats that include energy development, climate change and the loss of their native prairie habitat. The sand dune lizard, which lives among sand dunes and shinnery oak in the southeast corner of the state, has been a candidate for endangered species protection since 2002. The lizard faces many of the same threats as the chicken.

Under the conservation agreements, Lea County rancher Chris Brininstool and Marbob Energy Corp. of Artesia will take certain actions to protect the species and their habitat, including modifying fences to reduce collision by prairie chickens and relocating well sites to limit habitat disturbance. In return, Brininstool and Marbob have assurances they will be able to continue using the land regardless of whether the species ever comes under ESA protection...

Scarlett said the goal of the agreements is to take steps with landowners and leasees who are willing to cooperate now rather than having to list the species and force regulatory changes. "When you think about it, listing in some respects is a signal that we haven't done our jobs, that we've let these species decline," Scarlett said. "This is a tool to do our jobs and ensure that species flourish while they still are in numbers sufficient to carry forward. I think it absolutely is a key part to 21st century conservation." Scarlett said she hopes the agreements will serve as a model for other regions in the country that have species at risk on public lands.

But some conservation groups say the federal government is being irresponsible by trying to avoid listing the prairie chicken and lizard under the Endangered Species Act. "We believe it makes absolutely no sense for the Fish and Wildlife Service to be talking about avoiding listing either of these species," said Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. The group submitted comments to the agency earlier this year, saying that conservation agreements are voluntary and speculative and cannot replace the protections provided under the act. The group also argued that the agreements would not remove or reduce all of the threats facing the species, such climate change, drought and disease.

Category: Climate Change News
6:31:53 AM    

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Here's a report on the Army Corps of Engineers dredging operation at John Martin Reservoir from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Army Corps of Engineers is dredging John Martin Reservoir in an effort to remove more than 50 years' accumulation of sediment that has piled up near the base of the dam. Completed in 1948, the dam near Las Animas actually began collecting sediment before that time. Big floods in 1946 and 1965 washed in tons of sediment, but it also accumulates year-in and year-out with the normal flows of the Arkansas River. This is the first time the reservoir has been dredged.

"The emergency gates and bulkheads can't be examined," Dennis Garcia of the Corps' Albuquerque office told the Arkansas River Compact Administration engineering committee this week. Sediment actually has accumulated 10-15 feet above the gates to the six conduits in the John Martin Dam, which each are 8-10 feet high and located about 5 feet above the base of the dam. The layer of sediment is about 680 feet long and 480 feet deep and water apparently is moving through tunnels. Divers sent down to inspect the dam could not see the gates, Garcia explained. The Corps is spending $3 million to hydraulically dredge the area, removing about 90,000 cubic yards of sediment to a site about 1.5 miles away. The material is being used as fill for future habitat islands. The dredge sucks up both water and sediment and moves it through a pipeline to a retention pond, which traps sediment and sends clean water back to the lake. The mix for sandy soil is roughly 50-50, while the material load drops to 20 percent in heavier clays, Garcia said. Core sampling revealed there are not significant levels - anything that would cause a federal action - for metals, selenium, mercury, lead or pesticides, Garcia said...

The bulkheads are on the upstream edge of the dam and could not be closed to inspect emergency gates in each of the six conduits through the dam. The emergency gates can still be closed for periodic inspection of the service gates, which release water on the downstream side of the dam.

Category: Colorado Water
6:19:42 AM    

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More reaction to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's shiny new rules for oil and gas exploration and development, from Adam Schrager writing on From the article:

Colorado lawmakers say they will try to cut through the "rhetoric" surrounding new rules and regulations governing the oil and gas industry when they review them next month...

"We're going to be looking at a set of rules that has a lot of give and take in it already," said Rep. Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison), who is the Democratic point person on the issue in the State House. "There's a lot of rhetoric that's overblown here as to the impacts (of the new rules)." Specifically, Curry says concerns by the industry that jobs will be lost due to the regulatory instability don't take account of the current economic crisis, its resulting credit crunch, capacity problems with pipelines, and overall, the price of the commodity which has seen the price of natural gas in Colorado drop by nearly 75 percent this year alone. "There are a whole lot of other things at work here too," she said.

Others though worry about the regulations' impact on the future of an industry vital to the state's economy. "Let's not cave into hysteria. There's going to be extreme passions on all sides of this," said Senator-elect Al White (R-Hayden). "(But) given this environment, this economic environment we're in, I am concerned we don't do too much to chill the appetite of the oil and gas industry for production in the state of Colorado." White says in parts of his Senate district, western Garfield County and Rio Blanco County, oil and gas companies have predicted they will need to shut down 40 percent of their currently operational wells because of the economy. It could cost thousands of jobs. White worries about any other impetus to send those companies out of Colorado. "No matter what industry you're in (in this economy), you're not bullet proof. We're seeing the effect of the (economy) in our oil and gas industry," he said. "Given this uncertain regulatory environment right now, I'm worried we not do anything further to give the oil and gas industry concerns about their ability to be profitable in the state of Colorado."

Category: Climate Change News
6:00:03 AM    

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